1 of 2


prof·​li·​gate ˈprä-fli-gət How to pronounce profligate (audio)
: wildly extravagant
profligate spending
: completely given up to dissipation and licentiousness : shamelessly immoral
leading a profligate life
profligately adverb


2 of 2


prof·​li·​gate ˈprä-fli-gət How to pronounce profligate (audio)
: a person given to wildly extravagant and usually grossly self-indulgent expenditure

Did you know?

Don't Get Overwhelmed by the History of Profligate

When a royal record keeper reported the "profligation of the knights" almost five centuries ago, he didn't mean the knights were wildly indulging in excesses; he meant they were thoroughly defeated in battle. There's nothing etymologically extreme there; the Latin verb profligare, which is the root of both profligate and the much rarer profligation (meaning "ruin"), means "to strike down," "to destroy," or "to overwhelm." When the adjective profligate first appeared in print in English it meant "overthrown" or "overwhelmed," (a sense that is now obsolete) but over time the word's meaning shifted to "immoral" or "wildly extravagant."

Examples of profligate in a Sentence

Adjective In a curious way, part of the genius of America has been a collective forgetfulness, a talent for somehow outdistancing problems in a headlong race toward something new. It is a form of heedlessness, perhaps, blithe and profligate, but also an exuberant forward spin that may spare people the exhausting obligations of revenge. Lance Morrow, Time, 4 Apr. 1988
Sure, the trade deficit symbolizes a profligate America, consuming more than it produces and spending more than it has. Philip Revzin, Wall Street Journal, 17 Mar. 17, 1988
Everyone seemed fond of statistics, but the counterterrorism experts were especially profligate with numbers. Kurt Andersen, Time, 24 June 1985
She was very profligate in her spending. profligate movie producers hoping to create the next blockbuster Noun "Why did you ask that scoundrel, Rawdon Crawley, to dine?" said the Rector to his lady, as they were walking home through the park. "I don't want the fellow. He looks down upon us country people as so many blackamoors.  … Besides, he's such an infernal character—he's a gambler—he's a drunkard—he's a profligate in every way." William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848
a profligate who could not really afford the grand style he maintained at Monticello, Jefferson died deeply in debt a drunken profligate, he was given to wretched excess in every aspect of his life See More
Recent Examples on the Web
That year, President Oliver North resigned after accusing the NRA of profligate spending. Justine McDaniel, Washington Post, 5 Jan. 2024 The men were serious about their work, and perhaps even about their fishing, but profligate in their leisure-time habits. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, 5 Sep. 2023 Earlier this year, Peltz bought up a large Disney stake and demanded a board seat, accusing the company of profligate spending. Bypaolo Confino, Fortune, 9 Nov. 2023 The Port Authority jammed down the public’s throat a vain, profligate showpiece building called the Oculus, by Santiago Calatrava, to house that Path station and shopping mall. Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, 13 Sep. 2023 It was caused by decades of corruption and profligate spending by ruling politicians. Reuters, NBC News, 10 Aug. 2023 And the governor’s position has appeared precarious: His donors and allies have increasingly expressed doubts about his strength as a candidate and his ability to fix his campaign’s problems, among them profligate spending. Nicholas Nehamas,, 29 July 2023 In the weeks since, an alarming picture of the final months of the company has emerged, one rife with warning signs and red flags: bounced paychecks and missing 401(k) contributions, delinquent property taxes and profligate spending. Reis Thebault, Washington Post, 19 July 2023 Names that evoke images of profligate lifestyles, miserable fates, or even fascism. John Pearley Huffman, Car and Driver, 7 July 2023
The monarchy and the British government, which provides significant financial support for the institution, have long faced a careful balancing act: Both have worked to maintain the pomp and circumstance of the institution while avoiding looking profligate. WSJ, 14 Sep. 2022 Fed up with the profligate practice, dumpster divers like Ms. Sacks have started posting videos of their haul on TikTok in recent years as a way of shaming corporations and raising awareness of the wasteful behavior. Steven Kurutz, New York Times, 21 Nov. 2022 In retrospect, such escapades may strike one as profligate. New York Times, 24 Mar. 2022 After years of profligate spending, the city had dwindling tax revenues and huge budget deficits; was low on cash for operating expenses; and, unable to borrow more, faced horrendous personnel layoffs, service cuts and bond defaults. New York Times, 5 Jan. 2022 Still, Republicans have slammed Democrats for profligate spending since retaking the majority, decrying the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief measure passed in March and the possible passage of the Build Back Better Act. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 15 Dec. 2021 In 1911, the two retired to Daytona Beach, Florida, and passed the financial reins to their son William, who would soon grow into a profligate playboy. Michael Ames, The New Yorker, 15 Dec. 2021 The house can afford profligate spending, of course, because LVMH is controlled by the Arnault family, which is far more patient than Wall Street fund managers. Christina Binkley, Robb Report, 27 Nov. 2021 It’s a fraught debate, draped by the legacy of profligate prescribing. Andrew Joseph, STAT, 25 Nov. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'profligate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Noun

Latin profligatus, from past participle of profligare to strike down, from pro- forward, down + -fligare (akin to fligere to strike); akin to Greek phlibein to squeeze

First Known Use


1617, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1709, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of profligate was in 1617


Dictionary Entries Near profligate

Cite this Entry

“Profligate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


: wicked in character or morals : dissipated
: very wasteful
profligate noun

More from Merriam-Webster on profligate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!